When other people write better than you do…


If you travel to London at the moment, there are several huge billboards advertising The Girl on the Train. The book has morphed into a film, and now a play. Now, I have read the book, and it was very enjoyable, but the writing style is not, in my opinion, very different to my own (Paula Hawkins even has the same errors as me, and tends to write ‘that’ too many times). Other than acknowledging that her book is way more successful than mine, it doesn’t cause me any angst. Nor do the books which are fairly well-known, published commercially, and hugely popular, written in a style which frankly I cannot read, because they are so full of drivel. No, the books which cause me a problem, which make me wonder if I should just give up and make hats or something, are the books which are excellent.

The problem, I think, for an author, is when other people write better than you do.

If you are an author, or writer, or whatever it is that you wish to call yourself, then you cannot help but compare yourself to other people. Let’s be honest, there is a wealth of literature out there, from excellent contemporary fiction, to way back when Jonathan Swift wrote Gulliver’s Travels (now that was a very clever book). And for most of us, if we are honest, our own writing does not compare very well.

Now, when I first began writing, this was something of a problem. I love writing, I always have, but letting other people read what I write was another matter altogether. Writing was private, for fun, not for sharing. The potential for public humiliation is immense—what if other people don’t like your writing? When I read the books I love, from Charlotte Bronté to John le Carré, I am aware that my own offerings are not in the same class. For decades, this meant that my work remained hidden away, never read.

Then, one day, in a moment of madness, I showed one of my books (which was scribbled on the back of Ocado receipts) to my husband. He’s not the sort of husband who gives away compliments freely, and yet, wonder of wonders, he actually liked my writing, and told me that he hadn’t realised that I “could write like that.”

In 2016, I published my first book. This took scary to a whole new level; now complete strangers were going to be reading my work—even worse, people who knew me would read it. I sold some copies, and waited (not quite hiding under the bed, but wanting to). To my amazement and relief, people were nice. I was sent letters from friends, and emails from strangers, who had enjoyed Hidden Faces, asking if there was a sequel.

People read my books, and told me that they: “Read a chapter every night, and so look forward to it that I find I go to bed early just so I can read more,” or “I became so engrossed in Joanna’s actions, she was such a complex character, I didn’t want the story to end,” and, “Reading Clara was like watching a car crash, I knew that I should look away, but I was fascinated, and half of me wanted her to succeed…” I grew braver.

Here’s the thing, I know that my books are still inferior to those by authors that I love to read. I guess it is similar to an artist, who loves to paint, and who creates some very pleasing watercolours, but who knows that their work does not even begin to compare to Van Gogh. They also know that their work is improving and evolving and that other people enjoy it enough to pay for it. Should they stop painting? No, I think they should definitely continue. Do you sometimes feel your own work isn’t good enough? Then improve it—but don’t stop writing!

Personally, I feel that my writing is like orange squash. There is nothing wrong with orange squash, and it’s a lot better than the vinegar that some people produce. In fact, on a hot summer’s day, a long cool drink of orange squash is exactly what you feel like, and is incredibly pleasing. However, it’s not red wine, it cannot pretend to be red wine, and no one is going to think that it is. When I read a certain phrase by John la Carré (my current favourite author) it is like sipping a beautiful red wine, I want to sip it, savour it; I read it several times. I cannot produce that, but that’s okay; there is definitely a place for orange squash, and who knows? Maybe one day, if I keep working hard, I too might produce something of a decent vintage. One day…

Thank you for reading.

The link to my Amazon page is here: Anne’s Amazon page

Work well this week, and take care.
Love, Anne x

As I said, my writing is definitely improving (because people tell me so!) Have you read my latest novel? A heartwarming story, set on a farm, it contains a lot of my family’s humour and some poignant moments. Why not buy a copy today?

Ploughing Through Rainbows by Anne E. Thompson. Available from Amazon.

A Little Grammar for Authors


I have finally, after four rewrites and several beta-readers, sent the manuscript of Sowing Promises to my editor. The book will be a sequel to Ploughing Through Rainbows, and the first draft of Promises (which at the time felt ‘finished’) was completed many months ago, before I even published Rainbows. My point is this, being an author, and creating wonderful stories is great fun however, before we sell those stories to the public, we need to do a lot of work—work which is mostly boring and frustrating, and in some cases, when an editor tells us that something which we love really doesn’t work, we need to take a big breath and accept the criticism, change the manuscript and move on.

Anne E Thompson has written several novels and writes a regular blog each week. You can follow her blog at:
anneethompson.com

Now, I read a lot of books, of many different genres by both famous and unheard-off authors, and just about the only thing which makes me stop reading a book before the end, is bad grammar. I was not particularly well educated as a child; my English lessons consisted of telling us to ‘be creative’ and very little teaching of formal English grammar. But it matters. It matters a lot. Anyone who plans to publish their work, really needs to invest in an editor who has better knowledge of formal English than they do, and they also need to work hard to improve their own understanding of some of the ‘rules’ (even though, when writing a novel, many of the ‘rules’ can be broken in the name of building tension and creating an atmosphere). I will tell you a few of my pet hates, which is very brave of me because when writing, even when you know the rules, it is so very easy to make an error, and when writing about grammar, someone else is sure to spot them!

One common error is apostrophe s. This one is easy. If something belongs to someone, the someone has apostrophe s. So ask yourself, ‘who does it belong to?’ and add apostrophe s. “The boys shoes”—who do the shoes belong to? The boy? Then write “The boy’s shoes.” More than one boy? So the shoes belong to the boys? Then write “The boys’s shoes”. In English, we don’t like s’s because it looks ugly, so take away the second s but leave the apostrophe: “The boys’ shoes.”

One thing I learnt very recently was the use of superlatives. This is the fancy name for when you have the most of something, and the rule is, you cannot use a superlative unless there are more than two. So, two brothers playing croquet? Neither can be ‘the best’ one can be ‘better than’ the other, or the ‘better player’ –but not ‘the best’. If however, their father plays too, then he can be ‘the best’ because there are now more than two players. If you have two children, one can be the older child, but he cannot be ‘the oldest’ nor ‘the eldest’ because there are only two.

There is another rule about the use of ‘less’ and fewer’. If you can easily count the items, use fewer. If there are too many to count, use less. You will now be irritated every time you visit the supermarket, and see the Express Checkout till, which is sure to be (wrongly) labelled “Five Items or less” (however, we have seen it so many times, that ‘Five items or fewer’ simply seems wrong!)

I hope you write well this week.

Take care.

Love, Anne x

A hilarious family saga set on a farm. Being a parent has no end-date, as Susan discovers when her adult sons begin to make unexpected choices in life.
A warm-hearted, feel good novel that will make you smile.

How to Never Sell Any Books


How to Never Sell Any books

If you decide to be an author, there are a few rather spikey lessons which must be learnt along the way. If you want to write, and never be read, then here are a few tips which will ensure that no one ever buys your books. Sit back, and enjoy:

  1. When a bookshop agrees to sell your books, sit back, and do nothing else. This will ensure your book sits, undiscovered, on a dusty shelf, never to be opened again.
  2. If you are cajoled into turning up for a book-signing event, then you can bypass the danger with a few clever ploys:
    1. Do not wear anything even remotely attractive. Try to look as dowdy and uninteresting as possible. If someone should buy your book, it certainly won’t be because they are interested in you, as the author.
    2. Be sure to take your phone, and sit playing games the entire time. Eating something messy, like a burger, is another good ploy.
    3. Do not, whatever you do, make eye-contact, or speak to people passing by. It’s best if you can position a table between you and the potential customers, and sit behind it with your arms folded whenever not playing game/eating (see above).
    4. Don’t plan any kind of ‘speech’ about your book. If someone should interrupt your game/food to ask what the book is about, look confused and mumble something incoherent.
    5. Do not make your table look attractive. Beware of taking posters, or visual aids related to your book. It’s much better to simply dump a pile of books on the table, face-down if possible.
    6. Never offer a book to a potential customer so they can hold it, feel the quality, read a snippet. If possible, keep the books well out of reach.
    7. Do not smile, not even a slight grin. Not selling books is a serious business, and it’s worth having a good scowl at all times.
    8. Never ask potential customers what they like reading, or engage them in conversation. If they insist on trying to chat, and especially if they want to tell you about the book they have written/intend to write (this happens A LOT) then cover your ears and hum loudly until they have left.
    9. Swearing loudly, picking your nose, cutting your toe-nails, will all help to deter potential customers. If you could have a spouse handy for a loud argument, that would be brilliant, otherwise use your phone and pretend.
  3. Avoid all places that might sell your books, and never mention them when you are with other people. Best to pretend that they don’t exist, in case you manage to make them sound interesting by mistake.
  4. When planning the cover of a new book, try to use dull colours, and never use the services of a professional. Do not make them even slightly similar to other books of the same genre.
  5. When printing the book, do not worry about the typesetting. It’s best if you ignore the way professionally published books are typeset, and try to add interesting features, like leaving a line between every paragraph, not indenting the first line of a paragraph, and use a font which will be sure to annoy any potential customers.
  6. Never, ever, allow anyone to edit your work prior to publication. This will ensure that, in worst case scenario someone actually manages to read some of your work when intending to buy it, the number of typos and misspelt words and general bad grammar will ensure that they quickly close the book and move on.
  7. Always make your books more expensive than any other book on the market.

 

I’m sure you can add to the above with some more excellent ways to ensure that you never sell a book. Good luck.

Thanks for reading. Take care,
Love, Anne x

Thanks for reading.
You can follow my blog at:
anneethompson.com

There’s No End-Date to Parenting…


Sometimes, it can feel like you spend ten years teaching your child to be independent, and then twenty years wishing that you hadn’t! When your children are young, you long for them to be strong-minded, independent people who don’t need you anymore. But then when they are adults, and start to make their own decisions about how they will live, that can bring a whole different set of problems.

Meet Susan and Tom. They are farmers raising beef cattle, and their four sons are independent adults. But then they start to make life-choices that their parents find challenging, and Susan and Tom begin to wonder what their own role should be. One son announces he is a vegetarian, one son gets into debt, one is unfaithful and then one son tells them that he is gay.

Before writing the book, I spent a lot of time listening. I listened to farmers, and learnt what it means to raise cattle.

I also listened to parents who had learnt their children were gay, and to gay men and women who are discovering what that means in today’s society. One of the groups that finds this most challenging is the church, and so I also spent time listening to what people in the church think and feel. One aspect that came out (excuse the pun) very strongly, is that sometimes, neither side of the traditional Christian viewpoint seem to actually understand how the other side feels. It seemed to me that there was a lot of talking, of proclaiming of views, and very little listening—because of all other issues, this seems to be the most emotive.

 I wanted to write a ‘nice’ book—something happy that my readers would enjoy (after a few years of learning about, and writing novels about, psychopaths, I still find that my easy-read fun novel about an infant school is the one that people want to buy a second copy of, for their friends). Writing a funny book set on a farm seemed like a good idea. Introducing potentially inflammatory issues was a little trickier. I hope I have achieved a good balance and produced a book which will make you smile whilst also giving food for thought. I worked very hard to represent differing views fairly, and my hope is that by the end you will have heard each viewpoint very clearly whilst not being sure what my, the author’s, view is. Personally, I fell in love with some of the characters, to the extent that when the book was finished, I immediately started to write the sequel!

I hope you think it is a jolly good story and you will recommend it to a friend.

Please buy a copy, and let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading. Take care.
Love, Anne x

anneethompson.com

Ploughing Through Rainbows by Anne E. Thompson

Available from Amazon as a Kindle book and a paperback. UK link below:

paperback link

Kindle link

Designing a Book Cover


I love telling stories, and I love writing stories. However, when I decided to try and sell my stories, I realised that I would need covers for my books. At first, I thought that the cover didn’t really matter, everyone has heard the proverb: “Don’t judge the book by the cover.” If the story was excellent, people would read it. Ah, how wrong I was!

In reality, people do judge the book by the cover. I have learned a few points about book cover design – mainly from Mr. P, the man who runs my local independent bookshop, as he knows exactly what will attract customers, and he has kindly spent hours educating me on all things book-sales-related.

One point is the spine of your book. If you plan to sell through shops, people will only ever see the spine of your book (unless you are a bestseller author in Waterstones, in which case, you don’t need to be reading this!) My first book had nothing but words on the spine, so I was advised to add pictures or colours, to make it more attractive. If you look at commercially produced books, most have more than just words on the spine.

Actually, looking at commercially produced books is an excellent way to learn. Another thing Mr P. told me, was that people buy books which look like books they have previously enjoyed. Is this true? Well, have a look at the covers of books next time you’re in a bookshop.

Lee Child (bestseller) tends to have a photograph of a lonely man on his covers. If you look, other publishers are now copying this.

In fact, some books that are in bookshops are barely discernible from each other, as the covers are almost identical.

Which means that I, as a lowly self-published author, need to take a look at popular books which are similar to mine, and copy their covers.

Now, Ploughing Through Rainbows is set on a farm raising cows. I therefore planned to use a photograph of cows on the cover.

After some honest feedback from family members (my family are not the sort who tell me everything is wonderful, they are very happy to point out my errors!) I realised this wouldn’t work. To begin with, there was nothing about the cover which linked with the title. My son then tried adding rainbows. I loved this, felt the cover was sorted. But then I mentioned the advice about having a cover that was similar to covers of famous books. We looked at a few.

Ploughing Through Rainbows is fairly similar to the books by James Herriot – it will appeal to intelligent readers who want a nice, feel-good book, and the story is about the people rather than action (no murders in this one). James Herriot books have a computer-generated drawing on the front, showing a pastoral scene.

When I looked at other books set in the countryside, they were similar. This was beyond my capabilities, so my son produced a cover for me. I think it looks great, I hope you agree.

 Thank you for reading. Do look out for my new book, it will soon be available from Amazon, and it tells the story of a mother learning how to parent four adult sons. It’s a book to make you smile, whilst also considering some gritty issues.

Have a good week.

Love, Anne x

anneethompson.com

 

Finding a Publisher…


When I decided to publish my first novel, way back in 2015, I sent the manuscript to a selection of publishers, and sat back to await their offers. Ah, would that I could return to those days of naivety…The sad fact is, people today do not want to pay much to read a book, they want cut-price bargains, special ‘two-for-one’ deals…or to read it for free as an ebook. This means that to cover the cost of editing, and type-setting, and cover photos and printing, publishers have to select their books very carefully. They then have to set a price which will cover their costs, even when the wholesaler has demanded a 65% discount, and bookshops have taken their 35% share…never mind that the publisher might want to eat occasionally.

Hence the sad situation we are in today, where publishers generally only publish books from known authors—people who are practically guaranteed to sell enough books to cover their costs. Which means that new authors find it almost impossible to find someone to publish their work. If anyone asks me how they should best set about ‘being a writer’, I would tell them to find a career either with a publishing agent, or in marketing. I find it telling that one of the latest best-sellers was written by someone with a career in online marketing—these are the people who publishers will be interested in.

However, I couldn’t be bothered at my age to start a whole new career, so I decided to self-publish my books—publishing Hidden Faces in 2016—which has now sold over 500 copies. (There is a section outlining costs under the ‘How to’ section of this blog.) I would though, very much like to be traditionally published, and recently, I thought it might be possible…

I finished writing Ploughing Through Rainbows in November 2018, and began to send it out to publishers (see yesterday’s blog for an insight into my state of mind!) However, I also sent it to someone else. A couple of years ago, a bookseller had been lent a copy of Hidden Faces, and she liked it sufficiently to send me an email, and also to order 40 copies for her bookshop. I decided to send her the manuscript of Ploughing Through Rainbows, in case she had any contacts within the publishing world who might be interested.

This led to the manuscript being read by a publisher, who sent me a 4-page critique, suggesting changes. I rewrote the book, and waited.

Several months later, the publisher replied, saying that due to the reduced market, they now ask the author to buy 500 of the books, at half-price, to help cover costs. This was somewhat of a shame, as one thing I hate about self-publishing is the number of books under my stairs!

However, the thought of being traditionally published was still enticing, so I asked for more details. I also did some research, and found that several smaller publishers ask the author to buy a certain number of books, usually at half-price. I sent a list of questions to the publisher, asking what the actual cost to myself would be, and what the print-run was likely to be (so I could see if he would actually extend the reach of my book). I also asked for the title of a book comparable to mine, so I could check the quality. I then ordered a copy from Amazon.

The price quoted was disappointing, as it was half the RRP of £12.99. Now, I know how this works, because do the same with my self-published books. If you sell through wholesalers and bookshops, they want a 65% discount, so in order to cover your costs, you set the price at about £13. However, when selling in person to customers, the actual selling price is usually nearer to £9. I was therefore expecting the price to me to be half of £8.99, not the recommended retail price.

The book arrived. Although it was published by the publisher, it was an Amazon Kindle book—like my travel book (The Sarcastic Mother’s Holiday Diary). To print a paperback Kindle book, you do not have to pay for them to be printed, nor do you have to order a specific number upfront—you could publish a book and buy just one copy. This left me rather bemused as to why I was being asked to pay such a large cost upfront—even given the editing/type-setting/cover costs, this still seemed unreasonable. Perhaps only the books sold through Amazon were printed by Amazon? Perhaps those ordered directly were printed traditionally? I ordered a second copy, via the publisher’s own website.

The second book arrived. Although it did not say it was printed by Amazon, it was the same quality. When I self-publish, my books are printed with pages in multiples of 16, so the paper is folded before glued to the spine, which makes for a lighter, more robust book. The Amazon books are good quality, they use a decent paper and a thick enough cover—but they are not as nice as books which have been printed traditionally. Nor do they cost as much. The type-setting was also disappointing, with Chapter One starting on page 5 (it’s a fiddle, and involves much swearing when I do it, but it is possible to add section-breaks to the manuscript, so that the title page and copyright pages are not part of the numbered pages). In my opinion, Chapter One should begin on page one.

I was now thoroughly fed-up. Not only was the publisher asking me to pay half the RRP of £12.99 for 500 copies, but the books were no better than those ordered individually through Amazon. I might decide to publish through Amazon—it is a good system—and it won’t cost me £3,000 upfront.

I have decided, with a heavy heart, to self-publish Ploughing Through Rainbows. It’s a good book—set on a farm, it shows the life of a family, exploring a few juicy issues along the way. I know it’s a good book. I know people will enjoy reading it. It will hopefully be available soon…

Tomorrow I will tell you what I have learnt about cover design, and which covers help to sell books. Why not sign up to follow my blog so you don’t miss it?

Thank you for reading.
Love, Anne x

Anne E Thompson has written several novels, which are available from bookshops and Amazon.
Anne also writes a weekly blog — describing her travels, her animals, and life in general — Why not sign up to follow her blog today?
anneethompson.com

When it’s time to submit your manuscript to a publisher…


In November of last year, I wrote the following blog. I never posted it, because after I had calmed down a little, I realised that prospective agents/publishers might possibly look at my blog, and if they read this they might decide I was unsuitable. However, due to a whole lot of different circumstances, I am now about to launch my book, Ploughing Through Rainbows, and as I eventually self-published it, I have nothing to lose. Anyone who has attempted to find a publisher will, I’m sure, relate to the frustrations expressed below. Enjoy…

November 2018: I have started to look at publishers, ready to submit my farm book. It is such a demoralising activity, as everything is stacked in favour of the publisher/agent (even though at the point of submission, it is the author who has done all the work!) Some publishers even seem quite aggressive, and the following paragraph is a good example of what the lowly author can expect to find on their submissions page:

EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. Please read before submitting: Do not query us on a title that is already published. If your book is available (whether for sale or free) anywhere, in any format, in any length, in any iteration, we are not interested in these titles. It will not change our minds if you agree to “unpublish” it in the event we accept the title. We take very few reprints as it is. Reprints are almost always from an author with whom we already have a relationship, and they are always titles that have been out of print and unavailable for a considerable time.
Sorry to be so blunt here, but the note we have on our guidelines page is increasingly being ignored and the number of submissions we are receiving on titles that are, or have been, self-published on Amazon, on Smashwords, on blog posts, etc. is increasing. To submit these titles does nothing but waste your time and ours.

Not exactly encouraging, is it! In fact, there seems to be a distinct lack of information on what, exactly, the publisher is offering. They never seem to mention what they will do for the author – When (if ever) will they be contacted? What services (such as editing) will the publisher provide? When the book is published, will it be entered in competitions? How much will the author be paid? How will the publisher help to promote the work? Will the author be provided with copies to sell, or do they direct friends and family to the local bookshop? Will it even be in the local bookshop?

Some publishers and agents provide a form for submissions (which take about 2 hours to complete). Some ask for a single page synopsis, some want a two-page synopsis. Some want everything double spaced. Some want a particular font, or format; some want an exact word count. Some want a sales blurb, some want a ten-word pitch, some want a rhyming poem full of metaphors to describe your book. (Okay, the last one is a lie, but you get my point.)Why they cannot simply read the manuscript and decide whether or not to publish it defeats me.

So, the author is left wondering if it is worth jumping through all these hoops, only to receive a dozen rejection emails (if anything) in about 3 months time. Or perhaps it’s better to self-publish and have another 600 books in the cupboard under the stairs…

I hate this part of the process (in case you haven’t guessed that). I will let you know what I decide to do–though I have possibly managed to find a way to by-pass the initial submission stage…I’ll tell you tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.

Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson has written several novels. They are available from bookshops and Amazon.
You can follow her blog at:
anneethompson.com
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